Today is beer blogger extraordinaire Alan McLeod’s 57th birthday. Alan runs a good beer blog, called — curiously enough — A Better Beer Blog, which replaced his earlier “A Good Beer Blog.” I’m not sure what came first, the goodness or the blog. Anyway, though I’ve yet to meet Alan in person I feel as if he’s already a great, not just good, friend through our many conversations via e-mail and commenting on one another’s blogs. If you haven’t read his essay in the book Beer & Philosophy yet, rush right out and buy yourself a copy. He also published The Unbearable Nonsense of Craft Beer, with Max Bahnson, available as a Kindle single on Amazon, and last year co-wrote both Upper Hudson Valley Beer and Ontario Beer: A Heady History of Brewing from the Great Lakes to Hudson Bay. Join me in wishing Alan the very merriest of birthdays. Cheers, mate.
Today is the 52nd birthday of Joe Tucker, the Executive Director at Rate Beer. He used to run the website from his Vineyard bunker in Sonoma, California, although a couple of years ago he relocated to the Rose city of Portland. Because I’m in the Bay Area, I used to run into Joe from time to time, and usually at the annual hop picking day at Moonlight Brewing, though we flew to San Diego together a few Decembers ago to visit Stone Brewing, too. More recently, he asked me to be the Emcee for the Rate Beer Best awards held in late January in Santa Rosa, which was great fun. Join me in wishing Joe a very happy birthday.
Today is the 51st birthday of Todd Alström, co-founder of Beer Advocate. With his brother Jason, Todd has created one of the killer apps of the beer world online and the only monthly beer magazine. Though we only run into one another from time to time, we always have a good time. We also shared a week in Bavaria on a press junket in 2007, and had a terrific fry crawl in Boston a number of years ago, before he relocated to Denver a few years ago, and more recently became a father. Join me in wishing Todd a very happy birthday.
During a trip to Bavaria in 2007, the gang of twelve plus three at the Faust Brauerei in Miltenberg, Germany. From left: Cornelius Faust, me, Lisa Morrison, Johannes Faust, Julie Bradford, Andy Crouch, Peter Reid, Horst Dornbusch, Jeannine Marois, Harry Schumacher, Tony Forder, Candice Alström, Don Russell, Jason Alström and Todd Alström.
Today is the 48th birthday of Jason Alström, co-founder of Beer Advocate headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, but found worldwide over that series of tubes known as the interwebs. Though started as a hobby, Beer Advocate has gone on to be one of the internet’s killer apps of beer, which has successfully branched out into publishing and putting on beer festivals. Join me in wishing Jason a very happy birthday.
After judging the finals for the 2009 Longshot Homebrew Competition in Boston. From left: Jason, Tony Forder (from Ale Street News), Bob Townsend, Jim Koch (founder of the Boston Beer Co.), yours truly, Julie Johnson (from All About Beer magazine), and Jason’s brother Todd Alström.
During a trip to Bavaria in 2007, the gang of twelve plus three at the Faust Brauerei in Miltenberg, Germany. From left: Cornelius Faust, me, Lisa Morrison, Johannes Faust, Julie Bradford, Andy Crouch, Peter Reid, Horst Dornbusch, Jeannine Marois, Harry Schumacher, Tony Forder, Candice Alström, Don Russell, Jason and Todd Alström.
For our 142nd and final Session, our host will be Stan Hieronymus, who founded the Session, and writes the Appellation Beer Blog. I could think of no better person than the man who started it all with the first Session back in March of 2007 with the topic “Not Your Father’s Stout.” In the intervening 11+ years we’ve tacked 141 topics, wrote about 24 specific styles along with another 27 broader categories of beer (like wood-aged or session beers). We discussed the packages beer can come in or what’s on the package 6 times and where to drink it 12 times. Homebrewing came up 3 times, food and beer 4 times, and mixing with beer twice. We wrote about beer history 7 times, locality 11 times, beer on the interwebs at least 3 times, and ourselves and beer writing an astonishing 37 times. We’ve tackled beer abroad or traveling to the beer 8 times and have been asked to make predictions 4 times, including by me last month. That’s not including the dozens of unique singular topics. But back to the final topic.
For Stan’s topic this month, he’s chosen One More For the Road, which he sums up as going out with a bang, um … I mean beer; going out with a beer. So what beer would you choose? If you only have one to pick — and you do — what would it be? How would (will) you decide? You only have one more beer to drink, make it count.
Here are Stan’s simple instructions, in full:
When Jay Brooks and I exchanged emails about the topic this month I flippantly suggested “Funeral Beers” [which] seemed appropriate. You can call it “Last Beers” if you’d rather not think about how your friends might toast you when you no longer are participating. Or “One more for the road”* because that has a soundtrack.
Pick a beer for the end of a life, an end of a meal, an end of a day, an end of a relationship. So happy or sad, or something between. Write about the beer. Write about the aroma, the flavor, and write about what you feel when it is gone.
To participate in the December Session, simply post a link to your session post by commenting at the original announcement, or “on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, wherever” on or before Friday, December 7, or by the 12th at the latest.
This month’s Session was notably our second-to-last, and I chose the appropriately forward-looking theme, The Future of Beer Blogging. With only around six submissions, I think we’ve proved the point that interest in The Session has been waning and that it is time to, in the words of the Disney ice queen character, Elsa, “let it go.” Here’s what the most loyal and ardent beer bloggers still playing along to the bitter end had to say about the future of beer blogging:
Appellation Beer Blog – Long Live Beer Blogging: In his post, Stan, who created The Session, is ever hopeful and while he believes The Session is ready to be put out to pasture, he’s confident that beer blogging itself is not dead, but just one of many tools in the writer’s toolbox of ways to reach an audience. Like any technology, it’s continually evolving and happily a “diversity in beer storytelling” will go on. Hear, hear!
The Beerverse – Goodbye, Session. Hello, Something Else??: Dean has been writing about beer now about five years and is a true blogger in Alan’s sense of the word, meaning he’s blogging for blogging’s sake. (Full disclosure, Dean was a student of mine when I taught my beer class at Sonoma State University, although I’d met him before that.) While he never did host (although he came close a couple of times), he did participate and even reached out about what he could do to keep it going. He’s come up with a plan to do something similar through a bi-weekly newsletter he publishes, so give his post a read and see if that’s something you could get behind.
Boak & Bailey – The Penultimate Session: B&B understandably winced a little at my navel-gazing topic, but decided to play along anyway since the “news that the Session is expiring” made it a reasonable enough moment to weigh in. As with the majority of opinions expressed, Boak & Bailey also agree that blogging itself is not in decline, and continue to “find plenty of great posts that we think are worth sharing, and those pieces seem more adventurous, stylish, erudite and varied than much of what was around a decade ago.” They also remark that “the feeling of global community has diminished,” replaced “by many active, more locally-focused sub-communities: the pub crawlers, the historians, the tasting note gang, the podcasters, the social issues crew, the jostling pros and semi-pros, the pisstakers, and so on.” In a nutshell, it’s evolved, and evolving. They conclude with this hopefulness. “[O]n balance, we see the future of blogging as being much like its past – sometimes supportive, sometimes bad-tempered, over-emotional, churning like primordial soup as blogs are born in fits of tipsy enthusiasm and die of ennui – but also more fractured, more varied, and less cosy.”
The Brew Site – The Future of Beer Blogging: Jon Abernathy, who’s been a host multiple times, continues Stan’s line of reasoning, more forcefully perhaps, that beer blogging isn’t going anywhere. A point which I actually agree with, but which I just stated less elegantly, opening the door for him to rightly school me (us) about how ubiquitous the blogging platform is, it’s just that it’s morphed into many different, sometimes unrecognizable, forms. And while in part I was referring to the traditional standalone blog of one person writing from their perspective, I take his meaning and “get his point.” As he concludes, “Beer blogging continues on.” And so it goes.
A Good Beer Blog – The King Is Dead! Long Live The King!!: Alan also points out that “beer blogging is one type of writing in a broad range of formats,” but believes “[i]t’s the only one that provides for long form creative writing on anything that strikes the author’s fancy, without concern for pay or editorial intrusion.” And I agree with him that that aspect was certainly one of its hallmarks and likewise agree that “there is a place for such things.” The simple idea of us all taking up a discussion of a single topic was, simply, genius, and has been a highlight of the last decade. Like Alan, I hope we can find something to replace it that truly gets a lot us wordy types energized and excited.
Yours For Good Fermentables – The beer blog is dead. Long live the beer blog.: Thomas provides a run down of how beer information online is changing by detailing the decision to shut down The Session and Jonathan Surrat reviving his old beer blog aggregator in a more modern form called ReadBeer. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Or as Thomas puts it, “The beer blog is dead. Long live the beer blog. Or, at least, long live the beer journal, public or private, online or pen-and-paper.”
If you know of any Session posts I missed, or if I missed yours, please drop me a note at “Jay (.) Brooks (@) gmail (.) com.” Happy Holidays.
The final Session will be hosted by the man, the myth, the legend, Stan Hieronymus at his Appellation Beer Blog. His topic will be “One More for the Road” The date for the next Session will be a day which will live in infamy, December 7, 2018, although Stan will give everybody a few more days and won’t be posting his roundup until the 12th. It’s only one more, why not help us go out with a bang and participate in the final Session?
For our 141th Session, our host will be me again, which will make sense shortly. As you may know, I write the Brookston Beer Bulletin, and have been involved in The Session since Stan Hieronymus first conceived of it in 2007. For my topic, I have chosen The Future Of Beer Blogging, which seems to be changing a lot lately, I believe, and is certainly different than it was ten years ago.
My topic is fairly broad and open-ended, but centered on what has happened to beer blogging over the almost eleven years since we started the monthly Session. Back in those dark ages of the mid-2000s, beer blogging was relatively new, and many people were jumping in, no doubt in part because of how easy and inexpensive it was to create a platform to say whatever you wanted to say. It was the Wild West, and very vibrant and engaging. You could write short or long, with or without pictures, and basically say whatever you wanted. People engaged in commenting, and whole threads of conversation ensued. It was great.
Fast forward a decade and there are many more ways that people interact online, and blogs, I think, lost their vaunted place in the discussion. Now there’s also Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and countless other ways to communicate online. This has meant blogging, I believe, has lost its place at the top, or in the middle, or wherever it was. That’s how it feels to me, at least. I think one incident that confirmed this for me is that recently the Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference changed its name to the “Beer Now Conference,” a seeming acknowledgment that the landscape has changed. They explained the decision thusly:
We love bloggers. But after many discussions with key players, we have determined our community has reached consensus that the term “bloggers” is too limiting. Blogging, after all, is just one medium used by beer writers. Even with our switch in 2015 to the name Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference, we believe we are not including those who primarily communicate on beer via podcasts, photos, and video.
So where do you think the future of beer blogging is heading? What will it look like next year, or in ten years? Will it even still be around? If not, what will replace it? People won’t stop talking about beer, analyzing it and tasting it. But how we do all of those things certainly will. That’s what I’m interested in with this topic. What do you think the future will hold? What will we all be doing, beerwise?
To participate in the November Session, simply leave a link to your session post by commenting to this announcement, or email me, ideally on or before Friday, November 9, or really anytime this month. Since this is late notice, and our second-to-last Session, take all the time you need.
Participation in The Session has been waning for quite some time now, and finding willing hosts has become harder and harder. I’ve had to cajole and beg for hosts many times, and I’m not sure why I’ve kept it up other than we’ve been doing it so long that I just kept going out of habit. But the reality is that if people don’t want to host and fewer and fewer people are actually participating I’d say that’s a pretty strong signal that the time has come to shut down the Session. So in consultation with Stan, we’ve decided that December 2018 will be the last Session. It’s been over ten years and by the time the smoke clears we’ll have done 142 Sessions, which is a pretty good run. Thanks to everybody who’s hosted and participated over the years. After this Session, there will be one more, and I could think of no more fitting host than the man who started it all, so Stan Hieronymus has agreed to be the final host to put a bookend on this grand 11-year adventure.
So by next year, The Session will be a distant memory. Now what? Is there something else we could, or should, be doing as an online community of people who write about beer through the internet? I don’t know the answer. I hate to see this end, but people’s priorities and methods of communication have been evolving so I’m not sure in what form we could keep any engagement going. But I can start a conversation. So let’s discuss. As a coda to this month’s session, please consider what we could do as a group to remotely weigh in on the beer world from time to time. Maybe the answer is nothing. But maybe it isn’t. As a bonus topic, what ideas do you have for what to do next?
Today, it’ also the 58th birthday of Knut Albert Solem from Oslo, Norway, who has one of the premiere beer blogs in Scandinavia, Knut Albert’s Beer Blog. Though I’ve never met him in person, we have corresponded a time or two through blog comments or e-mail and I certainly enjoy his perspective on beer. Join me in wishing Knut a very happy birthday.
For our 126th Session, our host will be Gail Williams, who is one-half of the team writing Beer by BART. For her topic, she’s chosen a juicy topic: Hazy, Cloudy, Juicy: IPA’s Strange Twist. “The topic will be a still-emerging – though no longer new – unofficial beer style. This kind of beer has gotten so much buzz (and some mocking) in the last decade and a half that it’s surprising it has not come up on The Session yet. New England, Vermont-inspired, Northeastern, Hazy, Juicy or whatever you like to call these low-bitterness, hop flavorful beers, they are being made everywhere now and people are definitely buying them.”
Here’s Gail’s full description of her topic:
Any approach is welcome. Choose an idea or find your own:
- The encounter: Do you remember your first NEIPA – if so, what was that like? Details, please. And how has your perception of the style changed over time?
- Or the name game: What style name do you prefer to describe the trend … why choose that one, and why are the other names unworthy or short-sighted? Does “IPA” still apply in a way that’s helpful to drinkers?
- Or the crusade: Testify! Exactly why do you love or hate these beers? How you could explain your stance to somebody who disagrees with you. Could you/ how would you convert them to your point of view?
- Or setting standards and defining flaws: What makes a classic example of the style? What makes an IPA simply an unfiltered dry-hopped American IPA without much clarity instead of part of this style? What about the sweeter “milkshake” IPAs – part of this style definition or something else? What flaws make for weak examples of the style? Or maybe, where should the numbers be for this style – abv, ibu, color and clarity, etc.? What tasting instructions would you give to judges of these beers?
- Or take another angle, tell another tale! Have you been writing about these beers for several years now and watched them evolve? Know something cool about the making of these beers, the people behind them, their spread to the UK and Europe?
Choose any angle and make it yours – they’re just ideas to get us thinking, not a questionnaire. And if you have zero interest in such a beer, just say why in the fullest detail. Have fun with it!
To participate in the August Session, on or before Friday, August 4, 2017 — yes that’s this Friday, in just four days — write a post and either leave a comment to the original announcement, “or to get a little more buzz going, tweet your link with the hashtag #thesession or alert [her] directly @beerbybart on Twitter.”
For our 125th Session, our host will be Mark Lindner, who writes By the Barrel: Bend Beer Librarian. For his topic, he’s chosen SMaSH Beers, or single malt and single hop beers, which he was reminded of by his local Bend, Oregon, annual SMaSH Fest, part of Central Oregon Beer Week, which happened a few weekends ago. Between that, and brewing his first batch a beer — yes, it will be a SMaSH beer — he “jokingly asked [him]self if single malt and single hop beers can be considered a “thing” (trendy, etc.) until we have coffee-infused, barrel-aged, and fruit SMaSH beers. Maybe we do; [he has] not seen them yet though.”
But here’s Mark’s full description of his topc:
Here are some potential directions you could consider:
- Answer my question above. Are they trendy? When would they be considered to be trendy? Have you seen/had a variant (x-infused, fruit, …) single malt and single hop beer? More than one?
- What purpose do SMaSH beers fill? For you, personally, and/or generally.
- Do they fill a niche in any beer style space? One that matters to you? Are they a “style,” however you define that?
- Have you ever had an excellent one? As a SMaSH beer or as a beer, period.
- Do you brew them?
- Are there any styles besides pale ale/IPA that can be achieved via a single malt and single hop beer? (How about achieved versus done quite well.)
- Do they offer anything to drinkers, especially non-brewing drinkers?
I consider this to be wide open and am interested in your thoughts, whatever they are, regarding SMaSH beers. I sincerely hope this is not too limiting of a topic in the number of people who have tasted and/or brewed single malt and single hop beers.
Some resources–mostly brewing-focused, sorry–about single malt and single hop beers:
Single-Malt Brewing [All About Beer]
Brew Your Own 20/4 Jul/Aug 2014 Single Malt and Single Hop 55-64
Zymurgy 40/2 Mar/Apr 2017 Uncommon Taste of Place SMaSH recipe 35
FOR GENERAL BEER DRINKER (NON-BREWER)
I did try to find anything specifically directed more to the drinker/general consumer rather than the brewer but I could not find any. I would be interested in anything along that vein any of you have seen.
For instance, neither Mosher Tasting Beer, 2nd ed. or Alworth, The Beer Bible or Oliver, ed., The Oxford Companion to Beer have anything on SMaSH beer, although single-hopped does make an appearance in some of these.
To participate in the July Session, on or before Friday, July 7, 2017, write a post and either leave a comment to the original announcement, e-mail your post’s link to mark . r . lindner @gmail . com or tweet him at @bythebbl.